Episode 53: Examining Commitment to Purpose

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with John Edwards about commitment to process.

We jump right in and discuss how therapy is a highly skilled process.  Many people feel like therapy is just listening and wonder why it costs so much.  Edwards provides that it takes a lot of skill and attention to be attune with someone else.  This means not just listening but being able to tolerate the other person’s process. This includes anxiety, depression, anger, rage, frustration, guilt, shame, etc.  You can’t tell your client to just stop these things. You have to determine what the person really wants to talk about–not interrupt their process.

If you aren’t in therapy and trying to get through life, you have to be in tune with yourself.  This is something that therapy helps with. This helps an individual get in touch with what their process is and what direction they’re going in.  So many people are not sure of their process or they have been told by someone else what their process is, and even though they may feel it’s not their process, they still go in that direction because someone told them to.

We next discuss monetized process plans, such as programs like, “The 10 Steps to Get Out of Debt,” or “15 Steps to Manage My Anxiety.”  Edwards feels that sometimes they are not so helpful because people are in a loop of finding the thing that will help them with their process.  They haven’t actually tried anything. They may have done one or two steps and became distracted. Edwards advises that it takes a lot of repetition to learn.  When we get into process patterns that aren’t helpful, things can change. A person has to ask if their process is helping them. Edwards gives an example of a person who dates the same kind of individual over and over again and keeps having relationship issues.  The person often feels that it has something to do with them–not the people they are dating. You have to try to do something different. You may decide to wait longer before your next date to see what happens.

We change gears and discuss what it looks like to be committed to a process and then to realize you need to change gears and figure out a new process.  Edwards provides that when a baby is first learning a skill, they are really exploring. If they find something interesting, they think it’s great. If they do not find anything interesting, they just move on.  As adults, we tend to explore and then if there is nothing in the “box” we are looking for, we want someone to come put something in it. We stick with this “box” and try to make something out of nothing. Edwards believes that as adults, we have a hard time moving on to explore other things.  

We have to be clear about what it is we want out of the process we are on.  It’s okay not to be clear, but you have to understand that the process you are on is one in which you are not clear.  You aren’t really sure what you’re doing. If you stay connected to the process of being confused and unsure, this is genuine and authentic.  Sometimes you may think you are certain about your process and then realize it’s not what you were expecting. All of this is okay as long as you are continually remaining in your process.  Edwards feels that uncertainty and some level of confusion should be built into the process anyway. He mentions that when we see things on TV, statements will be made that say, “These are the exact steps you need to take to get X.”  This works for some people, but for a lot of people it does not work. Edward feels it’s very important to give yourself permission to be in your own process and understand it is an exploration.

We next discuss how to manage society’s expectations of our processes, like being married or having kids at a certain age.  Edwards provides that most people can function within our culture reasonably well. The challenge comes in when we are unable to say what we would like to bring in as part of our process.  Edwards says that as a Gottman couples therapist, he spends a lot of time telling individuals that they need to just ask for what they want. Part of the difficulty of saying what you want is that it puts you in a vulnerable position to be rejected.  It sometimes takes a lot of courage to go against what your family or religion says.

Edwards finally gives some simple words that people can use to stay committed to their own process.  You just have to say, “I’m not sure that I would like to do that at this time.” We can get pulled in different directions by our desire to please others.  We have to give ourselves permission to be ourselves. We need to keep thinking, “Is this helpful for me?” This is giving us freedom to explore.



John Edwards is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist in Oakland, CA.  Edwards has a full-time private practice. Edwards work with individuals and couples. His latest focus is the brainspotting technique for people who have been through trauma but have a difficult time discussing it.  He is originally from Guyana, South America.




WEBSITE: https://www.westcoastpsychotherapy.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/lgbtrelationshipgps/

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